‘One hell of a ride’: SpaceX’s historic amateur astronauts land safely in the Atlantic

‘One hell of a ride’: SpaceX’s historic amateur astronauts land safely in the Atlantic

Four space tourists ended their pioneering orbit journey on Saturday with an Atlantic water landing off the coast of Florida.

Their SpaceX capsule was parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, not far from where their chartered flight began three days earlier.

“On behalf of SpaceX, welcome to planet Earth,” said a SpaceX mission controller after the landing. “Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us. “

“Thank you very much, SpaceX,” Mission Commander Jared Isaacman said on landing. “It was a hell of a ride for us… I’m just getting started. “

In this image taken by SpaceX, a capsule carrying four people is parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean on September 18. Photography: AP

The fully amateur crew were the first to tour the world without a professional astronaut.

The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and his three guests wanted to show that ordinary people could get into orbit on their own, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them as the first tourists to ascend. on company rockets.

SpaceX’s fully automated Dragon capsule reached an unusually high altitude of 585 km (363 miles) after takeoff on Wednesday night. Passing 160 km past the International Space Station, passengers savored views of Earth through a large bubble-shaped window added to the top of the capsule.

The four men made their way through the atmosphere early Saturday night, the first space travelers to complete their flight in the Atlantic from Apollo 9 in 1969. The previous two ditching SpaceX crew – carrying astronauts for NASA – were in the Gulf of Mexico.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes off on September 15. Photograph: John Raoux / AP

Within minutes, a pair of SpaceX ships pulled up beside the floating capsule. He was hoisted onto the salvage vessel where the hatch was opened. All four were to undergo medical examinations before heading to Kennedy Space Center by helicopter to reunite with their families.

This time, NASA was little more than an encouraging spectator, with its only connection being the Kennedy Space Center launch pad once used for Apollo lunar fire and shuttle crews, but now leased by SpaceX.

The sponsor of the trip, Isaacman, 38, an accomplished entrepreneur and pilot, was aiming to raise $ 200 million for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. By donating $ 100 million himself, he organized a lottery for one of the four seats. He also ran a competition for clients of his Allentown, Pa., Payment processing business, Shift4 Payments.

Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a medical assistant from St Jude who was treated at hospital in Memphis, Tennessee almost two decades ago for bone cancer, and competition winners Chris Sembroski, 42, data engineer in Everett, Wash., and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college teacher, scientist, and artist from Tempe, Arizona.

Foreigners until March, they spent six months training and preparing for potential emergencies during the flight, dubbed Inspiration4. Almost everything seemed to be going well, giving them time to chat with patients in St Jude, perform medical tests on themselves, ring the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and draw and paint. ukulele.

Arceneaux, the youngest American in space and the first to wear a prosthesis, assured her patients: “I was a little girl undergoing cancer treatment like many of you, and if I can do it. that you can do. “

An Inspiration4 crew member seen on their first day in space.
An Inspiration4 crew member seen on their first day in space. Photograph: SpaceX / Reuters

They also got calls from Tom Cruise, interested in his own SpaceX flight to the space station for the shoot, and rock band U2’s Bono.

Even their space menu was not typical: cold pizzas and sandwiches, but also pasta bolognese and Mediterranean lamb. Before starting the descent, Sembroski was so calm he was seen in the capsule watching Mel Brooks’ 1987 film “Spaceballs” on his tablet.

Nearly 600 people have reached space – a scorecard that started 60 years ago and is set to skyrocket soon as space tourism heats up.

Benji Reed, a director of SpaceX, plans up to six private flights a year, sandwiched between astronaut launches for NASA. Four SpaceX flights are already booked to transport paying customers to the space station, accompanied by former NASA astronauts.

The first is slated for early next year with three businessmen paying $ 55 million each. Russia also plans to hire an actor and director to shoot next month and a Japanese tycoon in December.

Customers interested in fast space travel are turning to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The two flew their own rockets to the far reaches of space in July to boost ticket sales; their flights lasted 10 to 15 minutes.


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